Ask Miri: My Husband Lied and My Anxiety Is Killing Me

Posted on September 26, 2011 by

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my husband is cheating and my anxiety is killing me

Dear Miri,

I’m glad I found this blog.  I hope you can shed some honest light for me and perhaps help me with a problem.  I’m a married 30-something with 2 kids.  Pretty cliché life right now, working full-time, running kids around, very busy, etc.  My husband and I got married when I was pregnant with our oldest child (7).  Anyway, we’ll call him Ron.  Ron has always doted on me, since the first day we met.  He’s always showered me with love, compliments, attention, etc.  He’s always made me feel important and accepted.

The problem lies here – he has difficulty telling the truth.  Since we first met, relatives have described him as “having a checkered past”, or to “proceed with caution” with him, and old friends of mine were wary of him, he acted very inappropriately when drinking.  I stayed with him because I do love him and well, I was pregnant too.  My low self-esteem needed all of his reassurance and still depends on it to this day.  I’ve caught him in numerous lies/fibs… everything from lying about being divorced to past jobs to what college he went to, you name it.  He has hidden online gambling from me and opened credit cards without telling me and racked them up.

The kicker was this — I found out about an online affair 3 years ago.  For a few months during the summer of 2008, he began acting distant.  He wouldn’t tell me he loved me, payed no attention to me, was online CONSTANTLY, and I’d find him in the basement late at night with the computer.  I was suspicious enough that at work one day, I logged into his email and found the string of sexual and personal emails with another woman in a different city.  He had told her that he hadn’t had sex in a year, and presumably told her he wasn’t married anymore.  I confronted him, he tried to lie, thankfully I had the proof.  Then 2 weeks of him pleading and begging not to leave him, he said it was “nothing”, they never even met, it was “only” online via phone and email.  He said we were distant during that time and he was jealous of the attention the kids got.  Therefore, he felt lonely and met this woman.  (he doesn’t have a lot of guy friends anymore, fyi).  The relationship went on for maybe 6 months.

So, we have been to a counselor many times together, he has been very cooperative.  So, fast forward to now, I”m still suffering through the pain of this, I have severe anxiety now due to the lies/deceit/betrayal, and never knowing if he’s telling the truth.  I take Klonopin now due to panic, and medicine for a constant heart flutter that started a year ago.  I see a therapist regularly, but this anxiety is killing me.  He does many kind things for me, he says he loves me, and he works hard for our family.  He’s an average father, not very hands on.  I don’t know what to do.  I am SO conflicted.  I live in fear of what I’ll find out next, although he tells me over and over and over he’s being honest……..

Thank you for your time.

–Betrayed

Dear Betrayed:

Let’s start in the now and save the then for a bit later.

Right now, you’re riddled with anxiety and you’re taking Klonopin for panic attacks and medicine for heart palpitations. Your body is talking to you. Panic is our body switching into fight-or-flight mode. Panic dresses its adrenalin in many outfits: Some people feel breathless. Other’s sweat and turn shades of red. Others feel faint or dizzy or shaky. Some people get lucky and feel ALL shades of panic at one time…

Maybe you’re a discreet panicker?

If you’re discreet, you may be able to hobble on with panic. This is good and bad news. Good, because you don’t have to take immediate action. Bad, because you don’t have to take immediate action on a situation that is an emergency. Why an emergency? Because if the level of panic you’re cooking isn’t motivation enough to make you shit or get off the pot, then your body may up the panic signs and symptoms. In other words, you could feel worse than you do already. And the Klonopin you’ve secrued? I’m concerned about how well that stuff works.

Klonopin is a medication that offers post-coital calm without the coital. Therefore, for good reason, it’s addictive.

Be careful with that little pill of chill ‘kay? If your bod increases your signs and symptoms of panic you’ll be more inclined to reach for that little bottle – and that’s one of the reasons that it’s urgent that you attend you yourself. If you’re already reaching more often than prescribed, check in with your prescriber and let them know.

So, we’ve established that your body is talking to you. And I’ve inserted my “Klonopin: Proceed With Caution ” sign post.

Now, what’s your head telling you? Anything other than you can’t imagine not having your self-esteem booster (your husband) in your life?

You write that you still depend on your husband for boosting your self-esteem. Self-esteem is an overused term we seldom stop to think about anymore. Every crappy decision we make we can blame on low self-esteem. I do it all the time, btw. Like the ice cream cone I ate yesterday? My low self-esteem kicked in. Or the disrespectful self-important CEO I dated? That was surely due to  low, low, winter-low self-esteem. I understand the ravages of low self-esteem. I do. But self-esteem is a CHOICE. We’ve got the right to choose to value ourselves enough not to be treated like a used Kleenex.

You deserve to be with a person who can be honest with you. Good liars are smooth and charming. And good liars believe their lies. That is their mind-foo and their art form. Learning to put your husband’s sweet nothings into a bullshit basket will help take the syrupy yum out of his words. His words that you depend on to make you feel good. Imagine those words in the same basket you’ve tossed the omitted divorce, the gambling debt and the online affair. Somehow you’ve compartmentalized those elephants in the room.

Now, if you can take everything that comes from his mouth and plop the steaming parts of speech into the BULLSHIT basket? You’ll pretty much have the TRUTH. Do you want the truth? That’s what you’ve got to ask yourself.

If you want to be bullied by lies and caressed with make-believe, that’s okay too. Maybe you can find a way to make his falsehoods do their magic. All the while knowing that he’d have a hard time speaking the truth if his balls depended on him doing so. If you can do all the exhausting rationalizing requried to actually trust or believe your husband again, you might find some sweet self-esteem. Self esteem that is really just a lonely pink Sweet and Low packet. In other words, a crappy substitute for the real deal.

The way I see it? Your body has started to rebel. Your mind must listen to your body. If your mind starts minding your body, I would place an online gambling bet on your panic easing and your heart fluttering less.

I’m glad you see a therapist regularly. A place with a comfortable chair and a door that closes, a person who can listen and an hour a week to speak your tangled truth that you wrote so beautifully – keep that up. You will find your way to the sun. It’s still shining.

Listen to your heart, literally. Listening is an act of love.

Good luck and keep me posted.

Yours,

Miri

Miri is a licensed social worker and family therapist. If you have a question for her, email her here. Your Q&A will be published on our site. If you don’t want Miri to use your name, please let her know. 

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